Monday, April 21, 2014

Habits, Lifestyle and Change

So we have all heard the old adage....Practice makes perfect! Did you also know that practice makes a habit? Well, it is true. It does.

Habits are habitual or practiced acts that we do over and over again eventually becoming a part of our daily lives. This goes for both the good and the bad habits. If you are used to getting up and eating oatmeal, toast and coffee every day for breakfast, at some point there was a first day that you did this and after a certain number of days of repetition, it is now a habit. That is not to say that you can't have eggs and bacon one morning instead of the oatmeal, but chances are, you will go back to the oatmeal because it is a habit. Not only are you physically attached to this habit, but you are also mentally/emotionally attached. It is an all over body response to a practiced act. Your oatmeal habit didn't start overnight and if you are to change it and say replace the toast with fruit or the coffee with water, then you must begin a new practice or habit and for awhile, you will miss and likely even crave your toast and coffee.

Many habits that we have in our daily lives are not particularly thought out or even thought about. We simply just started doing them one day and now they are part of our life. Some are good and maybe some not so good. For example, brushing your teeth after breakfast and before bedtime is a good habit, hitting the snooze on your alarm over and over again is not. Going to bed at 10 p.m. is a good habit but eating a midnight snack is not.

The key to making positive lifestyle changes and implementing healthy habits is to take an inventory of your current habits. Do you sleep too late? Do you skip exercise? Or do you need a candy fix everyday? Is soda the occasional treat or is it one of the food groups in your daily diet? Once you inventory, then you need to ask yourself.....What is helping me? What is harming me and what really isn't an issue either way? Whatever is helping you, keep doing it, whatever is not helping or may even be harming you, those are the things you need to either ween yourself away from or stop completely and then replace those habits with new healthier versions or completely new positive habits.

As I said, a habit doesn't happen over night. Most studies say that in order to make something a habit, it must be practiced or done 28-30 consecutive days in a row. That's right, it takes approximately a month to create a habit. It takes that long for it to become both a physical and mental response. Now we are talking "creating" a habit here. Breaking a habit can even take a bit longer depending on how long the action has been a habit and how addictive that habit is such as smoking, drinking (alcohol), drug use and even going off coffee, soda and any other food/drink element that has chemical or stimulant properties. That being said, any habit can be broken with a little effort and a lot of patience and in some cases, the proper counseling. Sometimes we have to know and understand why we started the habit in the first place, in order to fully break the habit for good.

So how do habits and lifestyle change work together? We need to keep what is working, change what isn't and tweak everything else. If you are changing habits then don't try to change more than one or two at a time. If you go at it with the intention of changing everything over night then you are setting yourself up to fail and you will only end up disappointed and find yourself back at square one before you even get started. I suggest going at lifestyle change with the +/- approach. Add one new habit such as drinking 60 oz of water every day and get rid of one bad habit such as eating after 7 p.m. in the evening. These are two simple changes that don't take a lot of effort or mental change and yet both of these small changes can have a big effect on weight loss and overall health. Within a week you will be able to see the results of these changes and in a month you will have made a huge leap into a permanent healthy change and then you will be ready for the next +/- change. Eventually you will see amazing positive changes all the while you will be slowly weeding out the negative habits in your life. there you have it. Practice really does make perfect, especially when you are dealing with habits....both good and bad. So go ahead and take that inventory and let today be your day. only takes a month to change a habit and a minute to make the choice, so let the changes begin!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Walking Works

I have talked about this before, but I think it is worth repeating. Just about anyone can do some form of exercise. Exercise does not have to equal heavy weight lifting, running or repeated crunches or leg lifts. Exercise can be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other and......walking.

Walking is one of the best workouts for anyone, regardless of workout skill level, size and in some cases even health. Walking is pretty much the perfect beginner workout as it helps to strengthen the cardiovascular system, improves lung function and can be adapted to fit any skill level. It works leg, thighs
and if you use your arms or carry hand weights, your upper arms and even your chest get in on the workout too. While walking sounds easy in theory, sometimes it is surprising at first that something perceived as so easy can actually be a bit harder than expected.

Think about it. If your day consists of just under a thousand steps and this means getting up, getting the kids ready, going to work (sitting at a desk for 8 hours), coming home, fixing dinner, throwing in laundry, cleaning up the kitchen and then plopping down on the couch for the evening then that first walk may surprise you. Your whole body has been under utilized so you may find that walking to the end of your street is the best you can do on that first walk. Don't give up though. Like your body adjusted to your inactivity, it must also adjust to your new found activity. Start out at fifteen minutes and walk to the end of your street and back. Each day add a few more steps. Before you know it you will be going an entire block, then a mile and then......who knows?

This is the perfect time of year to begin a walking workout. In my neck of the woods anyway, the weather is the perfect walking climate as it is not too cold and not too hot. There is the wind to factor in at times but often if you go early of a morning or later in the evening, you avoid being blown off the road.

Outdoor walking for me is the best as I can change my routes, watch the seasons progress and feel sunlight and fresh air. While in colder months you can move your walks indoors onto an indoor track or a treadmill, the spring, summer and fall walks are my favorite. And will never catch me in 20 degree weather walking outside. Cold is not my thing.

My last round of walking workouts which was about a year ago, I was walking five miles 4-5 times per week. What I found by doing this is that I slept better at night, my stress level went way down, I was more productive the rest of the day and HUGE BONUS......I felt better and was losing weight. Yep....all because I was walking.

To some who have been sedentary for so long that they have become one with the couch, I know all this talk of walking is just exhausting and some of you are probably wondering just what one might need to partake in walking. So here is my list of necessities to begin a walking workout:

First you need a good pair of walking shoes. Nike, Avila, Adidas, Reebok and New Balance all have shoes specifically designed for walking. I suggest you try on the shoes and walk around a bit as these will become your best friend when you begin this workout. If need be, you can also buy gel inserts to put in your shoes for an even cushier and more comfortable fit.

Second you need cotton socks. Don't ever try to walk or run without socks. First of all it is a great way to rub blisters and second, your shoes will smell horrible to the point you won't want them in the house. Nylon socks cause friction and they tend to make your feet sweat more. You need a good breathable cotton sock and a way to avoid blisters when walking is to rub Vaseline on your feet before you put the socks on. This keeps friction down and also softens your feet while you are walking! BONUS!!!! If you do happen to get a blister....don't let that derail you. Simply get a blister bandage which you can get just about anywhere and keep the blister covered while walking.

Now what does a walker wear when one walks? In early spring or late fall when temps are cooler, I suggest yoga pants or workout pants. If you are heavier and your thighs tend to rub, you want pants that fit closely around your leg. Loose fit can cause chaffing. I also suggest a light cotton t-shirt layered under a long sleeved sweat shirt, sweater or workout top. This way if you get too warm while walking you can always remove the top layer and tie it around your waist without ever missing a step. Finally....if it is cool outside, sometimes walking when there is a brisk breeze can hurt your ears. The cold air gets in there and it can actually hurt. Wear a head band which can cover your ears or wear ear muffs. You will be glad you did. When the weather is warmer, a light t-shirt or tank top with a pair of bikers type shorts is ideal for those warmer days. don't want to chafe, especially in the heat. And most or cold, if you are a gal and especially a gal with a chest a good sports bra is essential. I prefer one that closes in the front. Even walking, your chest gets a lot of movement and a sports bra will make everything much more comfortable.
I also suggest if you are going to be walking a mile or more, take along a water bottle. It is amazing how thirsty you can get, especially when it is hot out. I also carry a little wristlet with my drivers license in it, that way if I pass out along the way, someone knows where to deliver me.

If you want to keep track of your walking progress, you may want to get a pedometer. They can range in price from free (if you use a phone app) to very very expensive. I usually use a free phone app and it is pretty good, but I have driven a route and compared the distance to the pedometer and it was a little off, but still it gave me a ball park figure of how I was doing. The phone app gave me calories burned, time walked, miles walked and steps walked. Like I said, it was a little off, but I adjusted for that. The more expensive ones can give you all of that, plus heart rate and I am they are much more accurate, however I have never been able to work a pedometer. You give me a pedometer and you might as well give me a car engine and tell me to overhaul it. I can't work a pedometer and I can't overhaul an engine. I'll stick with my app. The nice thing about some of the phone app pedometers are that they can keep a record of all of your walking information for a week, a month and some for even a year, this way you can see where you started and how you have progressed. They say the perfect amount of steps each of us should take daily is 10,000 which equals 5 miles. It is a great goal to work towards but most cannot move from the couch to a 10,000 step walk all at once. Some will start out 500 steps and some with more or less. Wherever you start though....the bottom line is that you started!!!! From there are only limited by your determination, your desire and your own two feet.

So there you have it. I have said it before and I will say it again.....walking works! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Society and Body Image

No matter who you are, large or small, if you are a woman and look in the mirror, you are likely to be dissatisfied with the image that stares back. We nit-pick even the smallest imperfection making it seem like the proverbial elephant in the room and at times even invent imperfections because society tells us that it is perfection or nothing. Every tv show, video and magazine tells us that women must be a perfect size 6, have perky breasts, a tight tush, flawless skin and hair and not a dimple of cellulite on our body....and stretch marks? Fugetaboutit! At some point us intellectual beings simply shut down and close our minds to the reality that no one actually looks like this Hollywood made up version of a woman. In today's world, perfection is created with Photoshop, good lighting, creative camera angles and a lot of airbrushing. We know this, but when we are looking at Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie or others that society bills as beauty....our intellect runs out the door and is replaced by insecurity and the desire to achieve the impossible. This fixation on perfection has been the starting point of many an eating disorder, unhealthy yo-yo dieting and unhealthy body image in young girls and women which can lead to many other problems down the road. is a made up reality and we fall for it every time.

If you look down through history; art, sculpture, photography and film have shown the ever changing views of society and the shape of women. Up until the late 20th Century, women were depicted with curves and those curves were viewed as feminine, sexy and desirable. Women didn't run to the gym, worry about being vegetarian, vegan or survive on shakes and diet pills. No, they were far too busy raising families, cooking and cleaning to worry about those things. Still they took better care of themselves than today's women do. You would never have caught a woman leaving the house without her hair done, make-up (especially lipstick), a dress and heels.....even if it was just to run to the grocery store. Even to clean, my mom used to have a house dress to clean in and she wore a pretty apron over it just in case someone unexpected came to the door. Yes, women were body conscious even then, but in a very different way. They took pride in their homes, their families and in their looks. There were no "people of Walmart" back then.

In the mid 20th Century (40's, 50's and 60's) society and fashion celebrated a woman's curves. The female icons were stars and pinups such as Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Their curves went on for miles and were accentuated by their all in one undergarment called the girdle. It was simply a modern take on the antiquated corset and it held everything in place without a jiggle from your thighs to your breasts. With a really good girdle, you could go up a cup size and go down a waist size in the matter of minutes....that is if you weren't too picky about breathing. No self respecting woman ever left home without her girdle.

In the late 1960's the curvaceous woman became persona non grata when a young girl named Twiggy came on the fashion scene. Twiggy was a young British model, who overnight became the face of fashion as she appeared on the cover of every magazine in the world. She was tall and thin. With her short pixie haircut and her lack of curves, she had an androgynous appeal to her and suddenly everyone wanted to have that look. Gone were the days of girdles and voluptuous hips and breasts. Now we were celebrating the "stick figure" look. While I am sure it helped the body image of very young girls not yet developed and those whose genes dictated a less than curvy genetic make-up, but for real women, this image was an impossible acquisition. A woman could fake curves with the right undergarments and clothes, but there was no faking Twiggy's boyish figure. You either had it or you didn't. Most didn't.

With the coming of the 1970's and 80's, suddenly the body image issue was taking on a life of its own. More women were getting divorced, going to work, taking care of business both at work and at home and suddenly there was a break down in the family diet. Well thought out family dinners were quickly becoming fast food stops on the way home. Lives were crazy and hectic and breakfast, lunch and supper were replaced with grab what you can.....when you can. Add to this the onset of the Super Model and the world of self image was about to implode.

In the 70's, jeans were still designed with a curvier woman in mind. Bell bottom hip huggers were designed to hug in the right places and accentuate the curves. Jump to the 1980's though and thanks to models like Brooke Shields, Christie Brinkley and Carol Alt, it was okay to be a little curvy which was so nice for those of us with hips and breasts, however it was imperative that we had a 24" waist and this would be defined by jeans so tight you could see the outline of our kidneys. No wonder our body image was so poor back then. We were miserable. We couldn't breath, go to the bathroom or sit down because our jeans were too tight, but darn we looked good.....right? The truth was, no matter how hard we tried, the only ones that looked like Brooke, Christie and Carol....were Brooke, Christie and Carol. And the struggle for the perfect body image raged on.

By the 80's and into the 90's women were far more body conscious than they were health conscious. This became evident with more women sitting behind desks all day. They were no longer running after kids and doing housework, they were mostly just sitting. Welcome to the battle of the bulge that was quickly becoming a war. Then someone realized that tired, overworked and overweight women with poor self body image could be a gold mine. Suddenly gyms and workout studios started popping up all over the place. For an hour a day 3-5 times a week, we could Sweat to the Oldies, try our stamina at Step Aerobics or jump on a treadmill and walk/run ourselves into Super Model form. Unfortunately, adding this to an already hectic schedule wasn't easy and there were thousands of paid in full gym memberships never used. So now we were not only facing poor body image, but also guilt over paying for and not using the gym. If this wasn't bad enough, every magazine now had covers of waif like girls/women with dark circles under their eyes looking as if they just arrived from a starving Third World Nation. They called this Heroine Chic. Now for anyone over thirty and without a drug problem, this was just a passing fad that we chose to ignore. However, for many young girls, this body image set the stage of how they saw themselves for many years to come.

The new millennium in my opinion has been a mix of good and bad and the source of a lot of mixed messages where body image is concerned. At first the message was to love yourself and celebrate who you are regardless of your size. I agree that we should love ourselves, but we are much harder to love if we eat ourselves into heart disease and cancer or can't enjoy our lives because we are simply too big to get around. That being said, we are not all built the same way. If you are going by weight alone, 160 lbs. looks much different on a 5'10" woman than it does on a 5'1" woman. Also, build and muscle have a lot to do with how your weight is dispersed and how you look at any certain weight. You can be active, workout and have defined muscles, weigh 160 lbs and look amazing or you can be sedentary, flabby and weigh 160 lbs and look completely different. I do believe we should love ourselves, in fact I think we should love ourselves enough to be healthy, to be able to enjoy life and most of all be around in the long term for our families.

Right now is probably the most health conscious time in history. People are realizing that our inactivity, poor eating habits and the constant addition of chemicals to our bodies is resulting in obesity, disease and in many cases death. We our basically eating ourselves into the grave and cutting our longevity from about 70-80 years back to 50-60 years. It is really a slow suicide. Even social body image is beginning to change. We are now seeing more of the curvy pinup girl types and less of the stick figure, uber thin models. The average size woman is a 12 instead of a 6 and workouts such as core builders and yoga are working on strength as well as weight loss. We are finally realizing that we didn't put the weight on over night and it won't come off overnight. There is no pill, diet or shake that is going to make you lose 50 lbs in a week, but as long as we buy into the hype, we continue to set ourselves up for disappointment and ultimately to fail. The only way to fight this war and win is to change how we think about and look at food, exercise and ultimately our bodies. We need to make changes not for the short term, but for the long haul and introduce or re-introduce healthy foods and exercise back into our lives. We also need to learn to both embrace and love the real image staring back at us in the mirror instead of being disappointed that Aniston or Jolie aren't facing us.

It is my hope that in the coming years, healthy will be the new sexy. If we are able to look in the mirror and know that our skin is glowing, our hair is shiny, our muscles are tone and we are healthy from the inside out because of healthy foods and regular exercise, then maybe that will shape  a new self image. A real self image! Feeling good and being able to run, walk and play with our kids or simply enjoy life should be our goal. Not....fitting into a size 6, cinching ourselves in so tight we can't breath or starving ourselves to look like a cover girl in an airbrushed photo.

Just remember.....ALL women are REAL women. Each of us is beautiful and unique whether we are short, tall, curvy or thin. ALL women could look like Aniston, Jolie, Brinkley and the rest if we had the teams they do and the computer enhancement that takes away their blemishes, saggy breasts and cellulite. What's more, these women I guarantee you....don't always look beautiful, don't always feel pretty and at one time or another looked in the mirror and wished they were someone else. It is simply the nature of the beast, started when society decided that sexy, pretty and desirable meant all women should look a certain way. Perhaps it is time we told society to shove it and WE decide individually, what we view as beauty. Just think of a world where we saw not only ourselves but each other as beautiful.....society be damned! Oh what a world that would be!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Diet Soda vs. Regular Soda

Ah the controversy. It is funny but there are some people out there who I think are as passionate about their beliefs in soda as they are about who they will vote for in the next election. I realized this last night as I made a post on facebook about needing among other things jelly beans (or pie....I was good with pie) and a Diet Mt. Dew. You would have thought that people knowing I was a fat girl would have screamed NO at the jelly beans or the pie, but instead my poor Diet Mt. Dew became the target of haters. Who knew? Being the rebel that I am though and the fact that I had had a crappy and exhausting afternoon, the Dew won out. Yeah, Diet Dew is kind of my crack. Sorry people, I am weak.

The comment section for my original post about the Diet Dew was somewhat lengthy with some weighing in on the evils of soda in general, while others zeroed in on the "diet" in the Dew and finally others had opinions on the Dew itself and its caffeination (that's a word....right?) qualities. The fact was that as tired as I was last would have taken a lot more than some caffeine to keep me awake. The fact is though....the haters were all right.

Comparing diet soda to regular soda is like asking, "Do you prefer your carbonation with no calories and a ton of chemicals your body can't break down (and in Diet Dews case LOTS of caffeine) or do you prefer your carbonation with 16 -32 T. of sugar (depending on the ounces) along with artificial colors and flavors?" Put in that light....neither option sounds particularly healthy or desirable.

When we talk about regular soda, the beverage that many will defend to the has a long history. Originally soda had natural flavors, sugar and carbonation. It was also a treat and not an everyday drink. In fact I remember as a kid that Pepsi and Coke were the two front runners in soda. My parents purchased them for parties and their occasional enjoyment, but us kids rarely drank soda and if we did it was usually root beer. Most people did not have soda as a daily beverage. In the late 60's, diet soda hit the market in the form of Fresca. My mom liked Fresca and ever so often she would splurge and buy some. Then in the 70's we had TAB. It was heavily marketed and it became the cool and sexy drink of the day. Pepsi then stretched itself a bit and came up with Diet Pepsi. It was the first diet drink I had ever had and I really wasn't a fan, partly because of the sacchariny after taste and partly because I wasn't particularly a Pepsi fan.. Then in the 80's Coke came into the new decade with Diet Coke and I never looked back. I have had a love affair with the Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper and Root Beer ever since. None though have stolen my heart or my taste buds, like the Diet Dew!  Sigh!

Last night though as my Diet Dew was being thrashed about on social media as if it were the root of all evil, I actually did some major thinking as I rebelliously sipped my Dew. First of all, for those that said "if you are going to drink soda, drink regular," to you I say....."What part of FAT GIRL do you not get?" If I want that much sugar in my body, I will just go eat sugar by the cup full. HOWEVER, if we were a civilized society like we were back in the day, then it might be possible to have an 8 oz soda every now and then and have no lasting weight gaining effects. That being said few of us are that disciplined and every now and then doesn't cut it anymore. Most who drink soda (diet or otherwise) drink at least 20oz daily and often much more than that. We are a "sweet" obsessed society and often where that "sweet"comes from is even coming under attack. Is it pure cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup? It really doesn't matter because for most of us....if ingested in large quantities, it all becomes the same thing.....FAT in our bodies. So while the chemicals being consumed during the drinking of the regular soda maybe less, in the long run it is not really any healthier for our bodies and did I mention that those sodas with caffeine in them can also become somewhat addictive often causing major headaches and other signs of physical withdrawal if you try and quit?! Yeah! So there!

Don't get me wrong....I am not in denial. I may love the Diet Dew but I do understand that diet anything in large doses is just as bad, if not worse than regular soda. How can that be you ask? Because as mentioned soda of any type is basically drinking a carbonated can/bottle of chemicals. Stevia is the only "natural" if you can call it that low calorie sweetener and someone told me that it is far too expensive to use in soda otherwise soda would cost a fortune (which might not be a bad thing). At any rate, our bodies were created to process certain foods/beverages and not others. A steady diet of chemicals (especially foods and drinks that claim to be fat free and sugar free) do not work in our bodies properly. Often many of these foods end up as stored fat and one of the side effects of the chemicals in diet drinks are a sugar craving which in the end really defeats the purpose of us drinking it in the first place.....right? Other side effects can be but are not limited to, headaches, body aches and pains, weight gain (yes I am referring to diet soda), gastro intestinal issues and even cancer. When I look at it like Diet Dew kind of changes from the love of my life into more of the abusive boyfriend. Not a good thing!

Those that spoke loudly last night about giving up soda altogether were more on the money than either side of the soda war. Truthfully....water is your best bet and although spoiled to the taste and chemical reaction to our bodies that soda gives us whether it is the caffeine jolt or the unholy and unhealthy attachment we have to it both mentally and physically, we all know that high doses of sugar and/or chemicals on a regular basis has to have negative consequences somewhere down the road. Water though is just water and it gives back to our body without taking away or putting our bodies at risk. It is the only truly healthy beverage out there and sadly the one that most people don't even get a full 8 oz of daily....let alone the 64 oz they should have.

So what exactly am I saying here? If you are trying to make an argument for diet soda vs. regular soda....neither really has a healthy leg to stand on. Both have chemicals, artificial additives and sugar or sweeteners that can affect the body adversely. If you drink them on rare occasions you lower your risk for these negative affects but if you are like a lot of us, the occasional soda is just never enough. If you are looking for the perfect, healthy, no calorie, no fat, no chemical or additive drink.....water is your best bet. 

All of this being said, I have a bottle of Diet Dew seductively sitting on the table in front of me. It keeps beckoning me with it's come hither greenness and the knowledge of what that first sip is going to taste like. AND it is going to be a really long doctor day. I want to be strong but not sure that is going to happen. However, I did make a decision last night. When this bottle is gone, there will be no more. I will weather the headache and the withdrawal (after all it is the weekend and around my house weekend=someone sick or in pain) and by Monday I should be on my way to a Diet Dew free life. I have just decided that life is hard enough......why add the chemicals?